• Understanding Autism from the Inside

    “Academics came easily to me. The rest of life—not so much.”

Navigating the Holidays with Autism: Part IV: Holiday Shopping Tips

You are navigating stores, people are pushing, looking for sales items, full parking lots, with a screaming ASD child in tow. Does this sound like your typical holiday shopping experience? If so, here are a few tips that may help you get through those crazy crowds and keep a small amount of your sanity.

Avoid Big Box Stores

The big stores like Wal-Mart, K-Mart, Target, and Best Buy often have great sales and a diverse inventory during the holidays. But these same stores can be too big, and overly crowded to handle during this season. Many of these big box stores have bright florescent lighting that can cause those with hyper-sensitivity to light or sound to become stressed very quickly. The noise level, and many times proximity of other customers can rapidly become a source of overload and cause a complete meltdown. If your child is screaming in the stores this holiday season try removing them from over-stimulating places, they may be experiencing a meltdown caused by sensory processing issues.

Shop During Off-Hours

If you must shop in larger stores, as many of us will need to, try to shop during “off-hours.” Locate your Super stores that are open 24 hours and attempt to shop in the middle of the night when most other people are home sleeping. Although, this may not always be possible, if you can manage the trip, it will help you avoid some of the crowds and stimuli.

Stay Away From Black Friday

I know many people are after those elusive “Black Friday” sales, but many times fighting the crowds when you have an autism spectrum disorder is just not worth the perceived savings. Additionally, many times getting to stores early to snag these “deals” requires a long time waiting in lines only to get into the store and find they are sold out of the item you ventured out for in the first place. Taking children with autism spectrum disorders to wait in long lines is generally a bad idea. The crowds, people standing too close, loud voices, and long wait times are sure to trigger many meltdowns.

Shop Online

The solution to missing the “deals” you can get while waiting in long lines this holiday season could be to do most of your shopping online. Avoiding the stimuli, the frustration, and havoc of the department stores can go a long way in making this holiday season more pleasant for you and your autistic child.

Sales and Deals

Many online websites run holiday sales that are similar in value to “Black Friday.” You do not have to sacrifice bargains when shopping online. Many retailers offer online discounts and coupons. Locate the items you want to purchase, and then do a quick internet search for coupons pertaining that that retailer. Many times you will find better bargains from the comfort of your desk chair than you will in a crowded mall.

Holiday shopping is enough to stress most people to their limit. However, for those with autism spectrum disorders, the feat may be an impossible one. Meltdown’s follow overwhelming sensory stimulation can stop a shopping trip in its tracks leaving the parents or even the autistic adult frustrated. If you can, avoid the crowds, do much of your shopping online, during off-hours, or when you have childcare arrangements for your ASD child. Navigating the Holidays with Autism: Part I: Thanksgiving with Picky EatersNavigating the Holidays with Autism: Part II: Family GatheringsNavigating the Holidays with Autism: Part III: Gift Giving and SurprisesNavigating the Holidays with Autism: Part V: Beyond Gift Shopping—GroceriesNavigating the Holidays with Autism: Part VI: Grocery Shopping Online

Jeannie Davide-Rivera

Jeannie is an award-winning author, the Answers.com Autism Category Expert , contributes to Autism Parenting Magazine, and the Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism. She lives in New York with her husband and four sons, three of which are on the autism spectrum.

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